How do you know when to leave? When to change your job, school, district, profession? There is only one thing that is unfailingly true: no matter what, someone will disagree with your choice. I am not talking about the obvious stuff: total misery, incompatible supervisor, burn-out, moving for love. I am talking about the times when everything is right. When there is no obvious reason to change. I can’t answer this question for anyone else. All I can do is share my struggle and hope it might resonate with yours.
I have worked in the same school, teaching the same grade (more or less) for 11 years. And I have loved every minute of it. I love my students, colleagues, environment, administration, and district. Of course, there are frustrations, there always are, but on balance, this has been a dream job.
For the last three years, I have been restless. Click To Tweet
But. But it isn’t enough. For the last three years, I have been restless. Not discontent or unhappy, just chafing for a change. I thought I knew what I wanted. I thought I knew what was next. The result has not been what I expected.
My goal has always been to move into a position where I could engage in professional development related tasks full time. Coaching, curriculum writing, professional development, anything like that would work for me.
The last couple of years, I hunted for the perfect position. If I found it, great. If not, no big deal-I loved my job. This year was different. It’s hard to explain, but I could feel that it mattered more. I wasn’t sure I could stay put and stay happy. I also couldn’t articulate any reason why that might be.
My search got more serious. I cast a wider net and applied for jobs I wasn’t strictly qualified to do. I applied for other teaching jobs too. I’m not even sure why. For weeks, I heard nothing. Suddenly, interviews started pouring in. It was interview overload. I had 7 interviews in 7 days.
Still, I was plagued with unease. Why was I considering leaving? What rationale could possibly make sense of this desire to blow up my life? The truth is both complicated and simple: I don’t want to. I don’t want to stay until I am bitter and miserable. I don’t want to sink into complacency. I don’t want to lose my love of teaching. I don’t want to feel trapped or stagnant or resentful. I don’t want to stop making what feels like a real, meaningful, beyond the walls of my classroom, difference.
I have always craved change and challenge. Every couple of years, I trade in my car or move or start a new degree. The only thing I haven’t changed in the last decade is my job. A good friend told me I had “hit my ceiling” in my current space, meaning I’d more or less run out of room to grow.
Ultimately, that is how I knew it was time to go. Because I had a ton of closely timed interviews for a variety of jobs, I first had a horrible case of decision paralysis, but in the end, I went with my gut. I took another teaching position. At graduation this year, a student who committed suicide was awarded an honorary degree. His father accepted it. That was when I realized I should take the teaching position. I never lose another kid. I also still want to get to know the next “that kid.”
Next year, I will go back to teaching 8th grade in a nearby district. I will still be in the classroom. I will even take a pay cut. And I feel good. Excited and ready and buoyant. Since I accepted the position, I’ve gotten three interview calls for non-classroom positions. Turning them down has not been as difficult as I feared.
Making this decision was terrifying. It still feels weird and it breaks my heart to think about leaving. It also feels like the right choice. Maybe it will be awful and I’ll be full of regrets and recriminations. Maybe one more year in the classroom will lead me where I thought I wanted to go. I have no way to know. There is one thing I know: For me, right now, it’s time to go.
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